The Army Black Knights return home to meet the Tulane Green Wave in a meeting of struggling teams. Neither team scored a touchdown last week. The Black Knights (2-7) offense was shut down by the Air Force Falcons in a 20-3 loss in Colorado Springs. Air Force's defense limited Army to 169 yards of total offense. The Tulane Green Wave (2-7) lost a 7-3 defensive struggle against UConn. Tulane's Tanner Lee was picked off and the interception was returned for a touchdown. The series is tied 9-9-1.
ARMY'S PASSING OFFENSE VS. TULANE'S PASS DEFENSE
Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw was just 2-of-8 passing for 45 yards and was sacked twice last week. He overthrew DeAndre Bell deep on his only pass attempt in the first half. I'm surprised Army didn't try to pass more and waited until the fourth quarter. The Falcons were playing press coverage on receivers and slotbacks and the box being stacked. Ahmad Bradshaw connected with wide receiver Edgar Poe on 33-yard pass into AF territory in the fourth quarter. It was his best throw of the day. Poe made a nice adjustment to haul in the pass. Bradshaw has completed 17-of-38 passes (50%) for 308 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions this season. Wide receiver Edgar Poe has only seven receptions for 202 yards, a 28.9 average and three touchdowns.
The Tulane passing defense ranks 75th in the nation while allowing opponents an average of 232 yards per game. At cornerback Tulane returns 2014 First-Team Freshman All-American Parry Nickerson. He picked off six interceptions to pace the nation’s rookies last season. Nickerson, a redshirt-sophomore, is a preseason candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award. Nickerson has 30 tackles and six passes defensed this year. Tulane has forced 14 forced turnovers this season. Nickle defensive back Jarrod Franklin (54 tackles, (4 TFL) posted 12 tackles against Georgia Tech and 6 tackles against Navy when Tulane played against triple option teams. Senior strong safety Darion Monroe has 58 tackles, two interceptions and has broken up five passes. Monroe is one of the Green Wave's best players and had an interception last week against UConn. Senior defensive end Royce LaFrance led the team with six sacks last fall. LaFrance is an impact pass rusher with 31 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and he's recorded five tackles. Tulane has 20 sacks this year and they have some potential NFL talent in there front seven.
ARMY'S RUSHING OFFENSE VS. TULANE'S RUSHING DEFENSE
The Black Knights ran for just 124 rushing yards, averaged 2.8 yards per carry, had just six rushing first downs and didn't score a touchdown against Air Force. Bradshaw rushed for just 42 yards. He took a beating but did a good job in avoiding any turnovers even though he fumbled once. Bradshaw’s decisions were solid despite much of the postgame banter. The slotbacks were covered most of the game. Bradshaw (396 yards, 3.6 avg., 4 TDs) hasn't run for more than 61 yards in the last five games. B-backs Aaron Kemper (431 yards, 6.2 avg., 2 TDs) and Matt Giachinta (258 yds., 4.8 avg., TD) had trouble finding running room as the Black Knights offensive line was badly outplayed against the Falcons. A holding penalty on center Matt Hugenberg wiped out an Ahmad Bradshaw 50-yard run off a scramble.
Tulane's defense really impressed me against Navy's spread option. Navy ran for just 133 rushing yards, a 2.5 average but managed to score three rushing touchdowns. After getting blown out by Georgia Tech early in the year they retooled their approach. Tulane employed the Air Force type defense as they covered up the linemen and took away the inside. Tulane were usually able to keep their middle linebacker Eric Thomas and safety Darion Monroe clean as they chased and made plays. Middle linebacker Eric Thomas had eight tackles against Navy. Thomas has made 93 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles. The Green Wave defensive line dominated Navy up front repeatedly gaining penetration and produced 11 tackles for loss. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran 23 times for only 38 yards as he lost 34 yards on sacks. Reynolds longest run was just nine yards. Nose tackle Corey Redwine is a huge 328-pounder and 303-pound defensive tackles Tanzel Smart were disruptive forces up front and they finished with seven and six tackles against Navy respectively. Junior linebacker Nico Marley was named to the Lombardi Award Watch List. Marley's recorded 61 tackles, with 10 tackles for loss, a sack and one interception. Marley had two tackles for a loss against the Midshipmen.
TULANE'S PASSING OFFENSE VS. ARMY'S PASSING DEFENSE
Tulane quarterback Tanner Lee has missed time this season due to concussions and has not played well. Lee has completed 120-of-225 pass attempts (53.3%) for 1,284 passing yards with eight touchdowns against six picks this year. He had a brutal game against UConn last week as the Green Wave failed
to produce a touchdown. Lee completed just 13 of 40 passes for only 106 passing yards with an interception. In the last three games he's thrown only one touchdown and had four passes picked off. Wide receiver Teddy Veal leads the team with 35 catches for 431 yards, a 12.3 average and three scores. Junior receiver Devon Breaux (23 rec., 406 yds., 17.7 avg., 3 TDs) has the speed to make big plays. He had a 76-yard touchdown grab against Duke. The offensive line has allowed 22 sacks this year.
Army's passing defense is ranked 72th in the country so far this season allowing 228 passing yards per game. Army was selling out to stop the Falcons running game and allowed Roberts to hit 7-of-10 passes for 156 passing yards and two scores. Rhyan England (52 tackles, 3 PD) knocks away a third down pass to tight end Garrett Griffin in first half to force a punt. England fell on a 59-yard completion to Garrett Brown when the pass was perfectly placed over him. Freshman cornerback Brandon Jackson (50 tackles, 2 INT, 3 PD, sack) has struggled at times but is physical, a good tackler and competes. Senior cornerback Chris Carnegie (23 tackles, INT, 6 PD, sack) played great coverage against Air Force and shutdown his man. Mike linebacker Andrew King (73 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 4 1/2 sacks, 2 FR) should be able to create pressure against a shaky Tulane offensive line.
TULANE'S RUSHING OFFENSE VS. ARMY'S RUSHING DEFENSE
The Green Wave running game is ranked 121st in the nation and averaging 98.6 yards per game. Dontrell Hilliard leads the team with 424 rushing yards, a 5.3 average and six touchdowns. He had an 85-yard touchdown against Maine. He splits time with halfback Sherman Badie who has run for 213 yards, a 4.3 average and two touchdowns. Lee is not mobile and is a pure pocket passer. Tulane ran for just 34 yards against UConn.
The Black Knights allowed 196 rushing yards, 4.2 yards per carry and no touchdowns on the ground against the Falcons. Army held the Falcons to 137 yards below their average and allowed just 9 rushing first downs. Jeremy Timpf had ten tackles and dropped Jacobi Owens on third-and-1 from the 4-yard line to force the opening Air Force field goal. Defensive tackle Jordan Smith played well and shutdown the run to his side much of the game with six tackles. Nose tackle T.J. Altimalala (28 tackles, 5 1/2 TFL) has held the point of attack this year. Army's front seven has played better than many expected and are ranked 55th in the nation against the run.
Tulane kicker Andrew DiRocco has hit all five of his field goal attempts. Freshman punter Zachary Block has punted 36 times for a 39.1 average. Rickey Preston handles kickoffs and averages 17.6 per return. Darion Monron is averaging 7.0 per punt return. Tulane's coverage teams have been terrible and have allowed two punts and kickoff returned for touchdowns. Sophomore deep snapper Aaron Golub is legally blind with no sight in his right eye and limited vision in his left, and was featured on Good Morning America.
Senior Daniel Grochowski has hit 4-of-5 field goal attempts his year. Kicker Dan Grochowski hit a 47 yard field goal and had touchbacks on both kickoffs last week. He has hit the ball well on kickoffs with 18 of his 37 kickoffs going for touchbacks. Punter Alex Tardieu is averaging 39.6 per punt with 10 fair catches and 13 placed inside the twenty yard line. Tardieu hit a 52-yarder in the Colorado high altitude which was his second longest of the season. Marcus Hyatt is averaging 19.8 yards per kickoff return Edgar Poe has a 3.1 punt return average on ten returns. Army kick and punt coverage team have been above average.
Curtis Johnson is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Green Wave. Johnson is 14-32 overall at Tulane. He is a New Orleans native with 28 years of coaching experience from both the collegiate and professional levels. He was on the staff of the NFL Champion New Orleans Saints and the National Champion Miami Hurricanes. Johnson engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in college football in his second season of 2013. Johnson led the Green Wave to a 7-6 overall record but they stumbled last season to a 3-9 record after moving from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference. Tulane made great adjustments against Navy's triple option after struggled against Georgia Tech.
Jeff Monken and his staff played it close to the vest last week but lost to a better Air Force team. Offensive coordinator Brent Davis had a sound game plan but nothing worked. AF was in man most of the game over the slots. Davis tried to use heavy formations to counteract the numbers disadvantage. It didn't work. AF beat Army all day at the point of attack and on the perimeter. I was surprised he didn't try a few more passes but in the fourth quarter it was clear the Black Knights struggled against Air Force's pass rush and their receivers didn't gain much separation. Davis had to match up against a defense who knows how to stop his scheme and had better players. Jay Bateman's defense was well prepared and did an excellent job of slowing down the Falcons running game but they were hurt by play action passes.
The all-time series is tied. Tulane brought its entire defense up close to the line and held Navy's option attack to only 133 rushing yards. They should have confidence entering this contest in their game plan. The Black Knights usually play much better at home at Michie Stadium. Army should be pumped because this maybe the last time they have a chance to win this year. Army has won four of the last five games since 2007.
PREDICTION: Army, 17-14. This looks like a defensive struggle. Tulane's offense has averaged less than 10 points per game over the last five contests. The Green Wave defense is another story. Navy's staff felt it was the best defensive line they faced this season. They have a very talented front seven. Tulane produced 11 tackles for loss and held Navy to only 133 rushing yards. I think Army will find a way to win at home but I wouldn't be surprised if this Tulane defense shuts down a struggling Army offense.